Since the beginning of the energy down cycle, around mid-2014, shares of the oilfield services giant have lost nearly two-thirds of their market value. Between then and now, the stock has found temporary support levels that, for a moment, looked like an end to the painful and long-lasting energy sector bear was within sight. Yet, as recently as May 2019, Schlumberger reached a low of $35 a share not seen in at least a decade.
Lately, crude oil prices have started to recover once again. West Texas Intermediate is now hovering around $60 per barrel, after testing a 24-month low of $46 in December 2018. Oil inventories have been depleting in the U.S. at record levels while OPEC has recently extended production cuts, echoing CEO Paal Kibsgaard's comments made earlier in the year that supported "a more positive supply- and demand-balance sentiment leading to a gradual recovery in the price of oil over the course of the year".
It is amid this recovering environment for energy producers and service operators that Schlumberger will report its second quarter results on July 19.
One Energy Company, Two Different Stories
It is likely that Schlumberger's earnings narrative will once again be split into two very distinct stories. On the North American side, the short-term pain caused by production bottlenecks onshore will likely persist. As a result, Schlumberger's production business, carrying a heavier mix of revenues produced in the home continent, will likely face challenges.
Perhaps more important than the past results in North America will be the company's always detailed outlook on the region, which could provide investors with a better sense of how severe the challenges are likely to be over the next several months. It will be interesting to observe if the rise in pricing power recently reported by oilfield service providers will signal a shift in an otherwise somber mood for the remainder of the year.
On the international side, the tone is likely to be more upbeat. Without exposure to the same production constraints and with seasonally lower Northern Hemisphere activity in the rear view mirror, revenues outside North America could rise by nearly 10%. The large Middle East and Asia segment should lead the pack, with project revenue in Saudi Arabia growing further and weather disruptions in China and Australia unlikely to cause trouble this time.
And even smaller markets like Latin America have been performing superbly lately and could surprise once again, although results in the continent can still be quite lumpy from quarter to quarter.
Stock Could Climb In More Favorable Macro Environment
Schlumberger, a highly diversified oilfield service company whose equity is valued at $55 billion, is worth in the market as much as its three closest U.S.-based peers combined: Halliburton (HAL) - Get Halliburton Company (HAL) Report , Baker Hughes (BHGE) - Get Baker Hughes, a GE Company Class A Report and National Oilwell Varco (NOV) - Get National Oilwell Varco, Inc. (NOV) Report . Due to its dominance in the space, it is unlikely that the company's financial results and stock price will rebound more decisively until the overall industry shows signs of a more definitive recovery, driven by higher crude oil prices for a longer period of time and increased E&P investments.
The good news is that, despite the usual short-term headwinds in energy services, Schlumberger seems to be one of the best-positioned players in the sector. Following years of industry consolidation, workforce reduction and asset disposition, a lean cost structure and robust financial position could help the company drive strong earnings growth once the macro landscape turns more favorable.
Should this be the case, I believe Schlumberger's stock price could head substantially higher from its current, depressed levels.
The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned in this article.